We’ve been having glorious, ‘Indian summer’ weather lately, but last night the wind howled, black clouds rolled in and it looked and felt decidedly like November. Car windows are fogged up, frosty dew on the ground and all the deciduous trees are dropping their leaves. Halloween, The Day of the Dead and Hallows Eve are thankfully over and already a lot of businesses are switching to Jingle-Bells and Christmas décor.
“I hope the pub holds off for a while with the usual Frosty the Snowman window decorations. All this pre-Christmas cheerfulness doesn’t really brighten up my gloomy November and it brings out the early Grinch in me, and my friend Campbell, Camp to all his cronies, feels the same way.
“Santa Claus sounds like Mr. Amazon from the North Pole. A regular mail order business, disguised as a free gift giving enterprise, replete with a fantasy delivery commercial and no warranties. Baloney and Marzipan,” Camp grumbled, “except it’s the best time of the year for a bookstore.”
“Santa goes global Camp. Everything from cars to smartphones, from kitchen gadgets to appliances to electronics is made globally with parts made in China, Japan, Mexico and then assembled maybe in India or even in the US. We just bought a washing machine and it’s a South Korean brand but with parts and pieces in it from around the globe.”
“You must know that globalisation or the outsourcing of jobs has been reversing for the past 10 years, something few people are aware off,” Camp pointed out.”
“Really, I thought it was just one of Trump’s empty battle cries.”
“Not exactly. Caterpillar, NCR and GE built new factories and brought thousands of jobs back form China, Hungary and Japan. Foxxconn, the world’s largest electronic sub-contractor with clients like Microsoft, Apple and Nintendo is creating thousands of new jobs in the US. Tesla built the biggest new car factory in California and their battery factory in Nevada is gigantic. All in all, over 350’000 jobs have been repatriated into the US since 2010, not because of Trump but because wages and transport costs have risen in 3rd world countries and market stability is better close to the consumers which are still mostly in the US. All this bellyaching about unfair trade deals is just so much window dressing. The CEO’s of the world’s biggest companies are ominously silent about this trend and nationalism, a cousin of protectionism, is here to stay.”
“Well, here in this small town we now have 3 local breweries and one distillery. I guess it’s a microcosm of the big picture,” I said. We both sipped our beers, looking out at the grey, gloomy harbour, almost like they painted the whole scene in black and white and took all the colours away.
“Camp, you’re a councillor, what do think about the latest court injunction to stop ‘The George Hotel’ development on the Gibson’s Harbour?”
“It’s just the latest frivolous misuse of the courts by a fringe group who want to subvert the democratic process. Back in 2014, 63% of the town’s voters have elected representatives who support the project. The accumulated costs for defending these abuses of process have cost the local taxpayers over a hundred thousand bucks so far.”
‘It’s a shame. The money could be used to move the breakwater.”
“Don’t get me started, that is also being challenged by certain people who don’t want more boats, more people or even more tourists in this town. They don’t want any change. In fact these people want the ‘good old days’ back or their skewed version of a past that didn’t exist in the first place. Luddites, every one of them.”
“Oh, boy that calls for a drink,” I said. “The local politics are every bit as fascinating as those in far off places. Have you been driving in the city lately,” I asked Camp, changing the subject. “It’s absolute chaos and a game of chicken every time, no matter what time of day, it’s gridlock everywhere. Instead of adding more bicycle paths to the already congested roads why don’t they do what Zurich (Switzerland) has successfully accomplished.”
“What’s that,” Camp wanted to know. “Did they ban cars?”
“Not quite , but they built a brand new three story underground parkade right under the center of Zurich at the Bellevue and topped it with an open event plaza, where people can roam and congregate. The cost for parking downtown? A whopping $ 25 an hour. That keeps a lot of cars away but on the other side of the equation they made all public transport like trams, buses and even some cable cars, free for all. Now that’s what I call thinking out of the box. The teens were riding for free anyway and now they can save all that infra structure like ticketing machines, controllers and policing.”
“It’s going to be cold day in hell before they make public transport free around her. Imagine free ferries. Now that’s a wish Santa won’t be able to deliver,” Camp said, shaking his head. “I do have a good news item I’d like to share with you. It’s a quote by the late Ojibway writer, Richard Wagamese, at a lecture to a white audience, referring to the disastrous residential school policy, which devastated and traumatized so many first nations families. He said: “You can’t undo the past and you don’t have to apologize for the past, or even feel guilty about it, all you have to do is say YES, yes this happened.”.
“It’s a great sentiment,” I said, I’ll drink to that.”